Navigating the Deep End: Examining Supportive Practices for School-Based Occupational Therapy Practitioners

Date of Award


Degree Name

Ed.D. in Educational Leadership


Department of Educational Administration


James Olive


This mixed methods Dissertation in Practice (DiP) explored supportive practices for school-based occupational therapists employed in Northwestern Pennsylvania. This comparative case study specifically examined differences in self-efficacy and job satisfaction for occupational therapists and occupational therapy assistants employed by local education agencies, called intermediate units. Two intermediate units were selected for examination, one with and one without mentorship and onboarding policies. In order to explore structures of support, qualitative data via interviews and quantitative data via surveys were collected from participants from the Central Intermediate Unit 10 (CIU10) and Seneca Highlands Intermediate Unit 9 (IU9). Participants from these two organizations were selected as the IU9 does not include mentorship or induction policies or practices, and the CIU10 has developed a formalized onboarding and mentorship program for newly hired school-based therapists. Quantitative and qualitative data were collected concurrently. Through semi-structured interviews with participants from the IU9, therapists reported high levels of self-efficacy related to their jobs, but lower perceptions of job satisfaction as compared the CIU10. In contrast, therapists from the CIU10 participants reported generally higher feelings of job satisfaction, satisfaction with organizational commitment and connectedness, and opportunities for advancement. Findings highlight the need for more robust and comprehensive onboarding procedures including revision of the employee handbook to include occupational therapy as a recognized discipline. The proposed action plan, the Mentorship and Induction Program, includes a timeline and logic model that outlines minimal guidelines for onboarding as well as a year-long mentorship program. This model has been created to remedy the need for more robust supportive practices within the IU9, in addition to discussion. Implications were derived for the field of occupational therapy, including the notion that access to a mentor may help to increase perceptions of job satisfaction for new school-based occupational therapists. Additionally, school-based therapists may be intrinsically motivated by the patient population to complete this work, and that standard academic and national board practices are adequate for preparing entry-level occupational therapists for school-based practice.


Occupational Therapy, Health Sciences, Occupational therapy, Supportive practices, School-based practice

Rights Statement

Copyright © 2022, author.